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Tate & Lyle: Monk fruit sweetener attracting most interest in dairy and beverages

By Elaine Watson , 07-Feb-2012

Monk fruit: 'In a neutral to high pH product – some dairy products for example - you get a tremendous amount of sweetness using only a very small amount, which makes it more cost effective. In a more acidic application, you’d need to use more.'
Monk fruit: 'In a neutral to high pH product – some dairy products for example - you get a tremendous amount of sweetness using only a very small amount, which makes it more cost effective. In a more acidic application, you’d need to use more.'

Dairy and beverages are proving the most popular application areas for monk fruit sweetener Purefruit, says Tate & Lyle.

Caroline Sanders, global marketing & communications director, Tate & Lyle Speciality Food Ingredients, was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA nine months after striking a deal with New Zealand-based BioVittoria for the exclusive global marketing and distribution rights for the natural sweetener.

She said: “Beverages and dairy markets show most interest in Purefruit. A few launches have hit the market, but we are expecting several more in the next 12-18 months.

“We have a number of collaborative customer projects in our pipeline and would consider some of these to be significant, but of course, have work to do to bring these to fruition.”

A toolbox approach

As to how Purefruit is being used, she said: “We have seen a number of different formulation approaches being taken.

“Customers are certainly taking a toolbox approach when developing foods/beverages with Purefruit similar to what we’ve seen with other non-nutritive sweeteners over time.

“So combinations with stevia, fructose, sugar are not uncommon, depending on the formulators' objectives around taste, cost, and labeling.”

Sweetness from fruit message resonates with consumers

But how do customers plan to market Purefruit?

“The ‘sweetened with monk fruit extract’ message is certainly resonating with some customers,” said Sanders.

“In some cases, customers are content to simply be able to reduce calories naturally with a great tasting sweetener, but in many cases, our customers are seeing the unique opportunity to differentiate their products by explaining that calorie reduction was achieved using monk fruit extract.

“Great tasting sweetness coming from fruit is intuitive for consumers and some customers have tested this idea with their consumer base and found this to be a valuable message.”

Frozen desserts, juices, bakery mixes, granola, mints…

With the exception of Kashi cereals from Kellogg, most products using monk fruit extract as a sweetener are from smaller firms, which are able to get products to market more quickly, and cover a wide range of application areas from frozen desserts (So Delicious, Arctic Zero) to kids’ juices (Cuties Juice), probiotic supplements and sachets (GoLive, Fruity Dophilus), bakery mixes (LC Foods), granola (Bear Naked), mints (Green Tea Mints), whey protein products and liquid sweeteners.

However, some big names would be making announcements shortly, predicted Paul Paslaski, BioVittoria vice president sales & marketing USA, speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the American Dietetic Association conference last year. “The big product development cycles take time, but I would keep a look out for some big hits in the next five to six months.”

Around 150-220 times sweeter than sugar, monk fruit concentrate is heat- and acid-stable, soluble in water, and does not have the bitter off notes associated with some other sweeteners, said Paslaski.

It also worked well in combination with rival natural stevia-based sweetener Reb A, reducing its bitterness and providing a more sugar-like sweetness profile and lingering sweetness, he claimed.

“The flavor companies don’t like us as much as stevia as we don’t give them as much work.”

The sweetener, which secured a letter of no objection from the Food and Drug Administration in 2010 affirming its Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for use in foods and beverages, was being tested by scores of top tier food and drink firms, he said.

Higher the pH, the more cost-effective it is…

As for the price, a lot depended on acidity, he said. “In a neutral to high pH product – some dairy products for example - you get a tremendous amount of sweetness using only a very small amount, which makes it more cost effective. In a more acidic application, you’d need to use more.”

Under the deal with Tate & Lyle, Biovittoria has continued to manage the supply chain for the fruit concentrate, which is produced via a patented process from monk fruit cultivated in China using BioVittoria's patented plant varieties.

Mogroside V

The intensity of the sweetness in the fruit concentrates is directly proportional to levels of a compound called Mogroside V in the flesh of the fruit.

While monk fruit has been used as a sweetener in Asia for centuries, it hit the headlines in the 1990s when Procter & Gamble patented a process for the extraction of Mogroside V and struck a deal with Amax NutraSource to distribute a concentrated version.

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